February 21 – The Chinese owner of AC Milan has described suggestions that he has been declared bankrupt as “fake news” amid unconfirmed reports in Italy that his assets will be auctioned off on Taobao, the Chinese equivalent of eBay, to settle his debts.
The seven-time European champions are 99% owned by a Luxembourg-based vehicle, Rossoneri Sport Investment Lux, which is controlled by Chinese entrepreneur Li Yonghong.
He completed the deal only after a protracted negotiation with former owner Silvio Berlusconi’s holding company as he struggled to raise the €740 million to complete the acquisition. Reports have apparently been submitted by Italy’s finance police over potentially suspicious activities relating to the sale.
In a statement, Li said: “Some irresponsible news has damaged the club, my company, my family and myself. The situation concerning my assets is safe and sound. Both the club and my companies are steadily working. I, therefore, hope that no credit is given to the latest news that isn’t true.”
AC Milan are currently seventh in Serie A, 25 points behind leaders Napoli, despite spending £200m in the summer transfer window. They sacked manager Vincenzo Montella in November and replaced him with former midfielder Gennaro Gattuso.
In December, UEFA rejected a request to waive Financial Fair Play (FFP) rules for AC Milan, saying they remained unconvinced about the club’s new Chinese backers. Under UEFA regulations, any team that spends more than its generated revenue faces possible sanctions. However teams are able to ask for a waiver to FFP rules under a so-called ‘voluntary agreement’ scheme.
Milan have incurred losses of €255 million in the past three seasons – significantly more than the €30 million allowed – and late last year a Milan delegation reportedly travelled to UEFA headquarters to explain the current business plan.
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